MIDDLETOWN, NJ -  It hasn’t just been written or said, but indeed proven time and time again over the past several decades that among the very best high school wrestling teams and individuals in the USA are right here in New Jersey.

   Within the Garden State is a perennial powerhouse conference-the Shore Conference.

    Members of the Middletown South High School wrestling program fully realize this fact, which is why they work hard every day in the practice room in order to be as ready as possible each time they step on the mat for a dual meet and/or tournament.

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   Helping lead the Eagles this winter are the team captains, Mike Holland, a senior and Owen Fitzgerald, a member of the junior class.

   “Mike Holland is a great leader by example, consistently working hard and doing the extra including being a model student,’’ Middletown South head coach Anton Atterbury said. 

   “Fitzgerald is a huge fan of the sport, and he shares his passion for the sport with his teammates encouraging them to be fully committed to the sport and the program. Fitzgerald teaches technique to the younger/newer guys.’’

   Coach Atterbury noted some the accomplishments earned by both captains already this season, including Holland winning the Walter Woods Tournament title and placing third at The College of New Jersey Pride Tournament in the 132 pound weight class.

   Fitzgerald placed in the top four in the 152 pound weight class at the Walter Woods Tournament. 

    Even since earning the above mentioned accolades, both student athletes strive daily toward improvement.

   “Holland's conditioning has improved, so he can push the pace of his matches much more,’’ Atterbury said. “Fitzgerald's confidence and consistency has improved substantially.’’

   A number of wrestlers have helped pace Middletown South toward the winning ways they are enjoying this year.

   “We have had a really great team effort and freshmen Jack Zaleski and David Hussey have been having a great year so far,’’ Atterbury said. “Sophomores Kaden King and Nick Holland have really contributed to the team's success.’’ 

   The Eagles are scheduled to participate in the ultra-tough Shore Conference Tournament on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 at Red Bank Regional High School.

   “We have about 60 kids, which is up from about 17 kids two years ago,’’ Atterbury said. “About 45 of those 60 are freshmen and sophomores. The team has really bought into the higher expectations and are eager to continue to work to bring the program to the next level. 

   “We are looking forward to this post-season and continuing to have this young team improve. The Eagles are on the rise.’’

NOTES: The Eagles compete in the Shore Conference A-North Division along with Freehold Township, Freehold Boro, Christian Brothers Academy, Marlboro, Howell, Long Branch and Manalapan.